Blood needs in Europe

As the population of the WHO European Region ages, greater focus is needed on keeping sufficient numbers of blood donors. Give the gift of life: donate blood. 14 June 2013 is World Blood Donor Day.

WHO’s goal is for all countries to obtain all their blood supplies from voluntary, unpaid donors by 2020. Voluntary donation involves the selection of healthy people on the basis of lifestyle interviews, medical examination and biological testing. Removing the issue of payment ensures that voluntary donation is far safer, as human solidarity and social support are the only motives.

Changing uses for blood transfusion

The use of blood transfusion therapy has changed in recent years. Technological and surgical progress has led to microinvasive and bloodless surgery, the use of transfusion alternatives and progress in developing and using blood substitutes.

Despite these advances, the need for blood supplies in the Region is expected to increase. Europe’s population is ageing, leading to an increase in chronic diseases, including cancer. Blood and blood products are often used in palliative care for cancer patients. Transfusion therapy is also used in organ transplantation.

Fewer potential blood donors in coming years

Blood donor availability in the Region varies between countries that fully cover their national patient needs and those struggling to reach an acceptable minimum: that is, a reported variation between donors comprising more than 6% of the general population and less than 1%. In addition, potential blood donors are increasingly subject to more restrictive selection criteria.

For example, as people travel further and to more exotic places, they run higher risks of contracting diseases related to the environment, climate and hygiene measures, which excludes them from being able to give blood. These diseases include vector-borne infections that can be transmitted through blood, such as malaria, chikungunya virus, West Nile virus or Chagas disease.

World Blood Donor Day 2013

Celebrated on 14 June every year, World Blood Donor Day raises awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products and thanks voluntary, unpaid donors for their life-saving gifts of blood. With the slogan, "Give the gift of life: donate blood", the 2013 campaign, the tenth World Blood Donor Day, focuses on the value of donated blood to patients not only in saving lives but also in helping people live longer and more productively.

WHO calls on a new generation of motivated, voluntary, unpaid blood donors to form a resource that provides the safest blood possible for use wherever and whenever it is needed.

Recruiting and retaining young donors not only improve the long-term safety and sufficiency of a country’s blood supply but also promote safe and healthy lifestyles. Young people unable to donate for any reason can volunteer to serve as advocates.

Further, World Blood Donor Day is an opportunity for international organizations and European stakeholders to come together to support safe blood donation.

WHO’s work in Europe

Working towards universal access to safe blood and blood products is part of WHO’s cooperation with governments to ensure people-centred health systems that are universal, equitable, sustainable and of high quality, one of the four policy priorities as of Health 2020, the European health policy framework.

WHO/Europe works with national health authorities and international stakeholders and partners for blood-service reform, the development of national donor programmes, quality management of services and products, evidence-based transfusion therapy, enhanced information sharing and the dissemination of WHO guidelines and recommendations promoting the health-system approach. As a participant in the WHO global database on blood safety, WHO/Europe collects data on blood services in the European Region to document achievements and reassess strategic directions.